Studies of any design that evaluated contrast baths were eligible for inclusion. There were no restrictions on the diagnostic groups, extremity tested (hand or foot), and outcome measures.
Included studies assessed treatment of the hand or foot for rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or foot or ankle sprains, or in healthy volunteers. Studies were either randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or prospective cohort studies. The contrast bath protocols varied, but most of them alternated between cold (between 7 and 22oC) and hot (between 27 and 45oC) baths, for between 12 and 32 minutes. Outcome measures included skin temperature, intramuscular tissue temperature, and blood flow.
Studies were selected for inclusion by two reviewers independently.